What is Truth?
Truth. A concept that makes a person think. Everyone has a different definition of truth; but, what is the true meaning? The meaning of truth is something that is undefinable. Some may say that the definition of truth is facts, or the explanation of reality. It is a human created concept. It is something that is familiar. Although many people feel they know the meaning, truth is a challenging topic to discuss because there are so many different perspectives of it. It’s whatever humans make it. There are many meanings of truth, however, Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Tim O’Brien’s How to Tell a True War Story portray strong stories of truth.
Toni Morrison’s Beloved, is true story based off an African American slave woman named Margaret Garner. In 1856, Margaret escaped from a plantation with her husband and children. They ventured for safety and protection in Ohio, but their previous owner soon caught up to recapture them. Margaret killed her daughter hoping to prevent her from returning to the horrors of slavery. Morrison’s novel is set in 1873 and follows the main character Sethe and her daughter Denver. They live on 124 Bluestone Road and believe that their house is haunted by an angry ghost child. Sethe is a mother, whose situation is similar to Margaret’s. Sethe runs away with her children from an abusive slave owner. She too tries to kill her children to keep them from slavery. Sethe is successful and ends up killing her two-year old daughter. Sethe has the word “Beloved” inscribed on her young daughter’s tombstone. Although she intended for it to read differently, it was all she could afford. Morrison conveys truth in Beloved throughout the whole book, but specifically in the sense of sacrifice, love, and terror. When talking about the ghost that lives on 124 Bluestone Road, Denver states that the presence of the ghost is “not evil. But not sad either” (Morrison 16). Denver also says that the ghost is “Rebuked. Lonely and rebuked” (Morrison 16). These quotes represent the reality that no mother would intentionally kill their own child, unless dying was better than living. In this case, Margaret and Sethe both couldn’t bear to have their children suffer through slavery and killed them out of love. True love and devotion means to put others before oneself and this is a clear example of Morrison conveying how powerful true love can be. A personal concept of truth is something that forces readers into the perspectives of readers, to feel what their feeling, to know what they know, and Morrison does an outstanding job of that.
Tim O’Brien’s How to Tell a True War Story is not a story in chronological order. Similar to everyday life, “How to Tell a True War Story” is a bunch of small stories that fused together with details of what O’Brien believes are “true” war stories. The story opens with the narrator discussing his friend Rat Kiley, who writes a letter to the sister of his buddy who had been killed. The letter is long and filled with lots of emotion. He waits for two months to hear a reply, but never gets one. The story then shifts to a man named Curt Lemon, and the narrator reveals that Curt Lemon is the buddy who passed. Curt was killed by a smoke grenade accident. In O’Brien’s story, the narrator suggests that “a true war story is never moral” (O’Brien 68). Perspective shifts back to the death of Curt Lemon. The narrator recalls climbing up into the tree to collect remains of Curt Lemon. His friend, also up in the tree, sings “Lemon Tree” the whole time. It’s seemingly very important to the narrator to state that he has ability to tell the “true” story of Lemon’s death. However, there’s a plot twist shortly after, and it is then revealed that the narrator made everything in the entire story up. The story concludes by stating that a “true war story is never about war” (O’Brien 85). This leaves the readers wondering how to tell a true war story. This relates much to the concept of truth. O’Brien conveys truth within “How to Tell a War Story” by showing that things aren’t always as they seem. O’Brien reveals this plot twist in the final chapter when he states that “None of it happened. None of it” (O’Brien 85). O’Brien also writes that “You can tell a true war story if you just keep on telling it” (O’Brien 85). Although this seems to contradict the concept of truth, in actuality, O’Brien makes readers dig deeper to realize that people in general don’t know truth. Especially when it comes to war. O’Brien concludes it doesn’t matter what actually happened, what matters is the story within it.
Overall, Toni Morrison and Tim O’Brien are phenomenal writers. Each with their own personal ways to portray what their versions of truth are. However, no one will ever be able to identify what truth is because we as humans describe what truth is in our minds: personal truths, common consensus truths, whatever it may be. Although one may never be able to describe the meaning of truth, it is something that is undefinable, but recognizable.
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